Sunday, April 15, 2018

Letter Rates between Switzerland and France

The Project
Postal agreements prior to the General Postal Union/Universal Postal Union in 1875 were highly diverse, though they show increased uniformity over time from 1850 to 1875 in Europe.  This post focuses on mail between Switzerland and France  Last edited: May 4, 2018

Organization of this Post
  • Postal Arrangements
  • Switzerland to France Prepaid Rates (in progress)
  • Border Crossings (in progress)
  • France to Switzerland Prepaid Rates (in progress)
  • Border Mail  (future work)
  • Unpaid Letter Rates (future work)
Postal Arrangements: Switzerland and France
The Swiss Confederation came into being in 1848, but it took some time to develop new arrangements beyond the individual agreements that various cantons had adhered to prior to this point.

Postal Convention of November 25, 1849
The convention was completed in November, but it was not until April of the following year that the convention was ratified by both parties.  On first glance, reading the document in the convention resource #1 at the end of this post, I find no specific mention of an active date.  It may be there, but I have not found it as of May 4, 2018.

Convention of 1849
Article III Article V TBA
Article III setting the weight of simple letters (7.5 grams)

First part of Article V setting the postage rate at 40 centimes.

Click on the text image to see a larger version.

 Postal Convention of March 22, 1865
This was ratified in Paris on August 14 of the same year.  If a person reads the first convention and then immediately reads the second convention, it becomes clear how much more comfortable nations were in developing postal agreements.

Article III fixing the new rate of postage and weights.

Prepaid Letter Rates Switzerland to France

Prepaid Letter Rates - Switzerland to France
Effective Date Rate Unit
* differs for cantons

Jul 1, 1850 40 rappen/centimes 7.5 grams
Oct 1, 1865 30 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 (GPU) 30 centimes 15 grams
May 1, 1878 (UPU) 25 centimes 15 grams
Oct 1, 1907 (UPU) 25 ctm / 15 ctm 15 g / add'l 15 g
* Switzerland was "unified" in 1848.  The 1850 convention seems to be the first such between France and the new government.  Prior to this, postal agreements depended on the canton.

40 centimes per 7.5 grams - 1850-1865

Basel Crossing - St Louis Exchange Office

details forthcoming

30 centimes per 10 grams - 1865-1875

Geneva Crossing - Marseilles Ambulant Office

Zurich Jun 13, 1866
Geneve Jun 14 66 (verso)
Geneve - Sion - Geneve Jun 14 66 (verso)
Suisse Amb Marseilles Jun 14 66
Marseilles Jun 15 66 (verso)

Basel Crossing - Mulhouse Exchange

Zurich May 7, 1868
Basel May 8 68 (verso)
Suisse Mulhouse May 8 68

Border Crossings and Exchange Offices

Article I of the 1849 Convention
This part of the convention leaves it open for the creation of new exchange locations when judged "necessary."  It is possible addendums to this convention exist that list these newly created exchange pairings.  A similar list is NOT noted in the 1865 convention, with it likely assumed that this was no longer a detail necessary for a treaty/convention article.

The beginning list of exchange offices were as follows (French location - Swiss location):
  1. Saint-Louis - Basel
  2. Delle - Porentruy
  3. Miache - Seignelegier
  4. Morteau - les Brenets
  5. Pontarlier - les Verrieres
  6. Pontarlier - Sainte Croix
  7. Jougne - Ballaigue
  8. les Rousses - Saint Cergue
  9. Ferney - Geneva

Roger Heath has been kind enough to share exchange markings he has observed in his Switzerland collection in the period of 1862 to 1881.  In combination with period maps and markings he has shared and I have observed, these are my conclusions until I can read specific convention materials.

Basel - St Louis Crossing:
The Paris to Basel rail lines carried a significant amount of correspondence.   The Paris to Basel (Bale) rail line provided fast service between the two and foreign mails from England (and points beyond) were typically funneled through Paris.

French exchange markings that would be associated with this crossing would be:
   Suisse St Louis (seen above), Suisse Mulhouse (seen above)

The different exchange offices likely handled different destinations within France.  Clearly, the Mulhouse exchange marking works for the Mulhouse destination above.

Verrieres de Suisse Crossing:

Pontarlier on the French side of the border is clearly the largest settlement in the area.  Neuchatel is relatively close on the Swiss side.    Significant mail volumes, including foreign mails seem to flow through this crossing.

French exchange markings for this area:
     Suisse Pontarl D A Besancon, Suisse Pontarlier, Suisse Amb Besancon

It is possible that the Am Besancon marking could be from a train coming from the Montbeliard border crossing once Alsace became a part of Germany. 

Geneva - Bellegarde Crossing:
The Bellegarde crossing from Geneva would seem to be the favored routing for mails in the Southern France from Marseilles westward.  It seems possible that the different ambulant markings for Marseilles could indicate different border crossings and/or different time periods.  It is also not unlikely that some identification for train, work crew, etc are also in some of these markings.

French exchange markings for this area:
     Suisse Lyon, various Amb. Marseilles markings (one seen above), Suisse Bellegarde

Geneva - Annenosse Crossing:
This crossing seems to service northern Savoy.  Being in the Alps, more crossings would be needed to reach the destinations in the area.

French exchange markings for this crossing:
     Suisse Cluses, Suisse Bonneville

Geneva - St Julien Crossing:
The St Julien crossing heads south and appears to connect to the Mt Cenis railway.  This traveling exchange office was probably intended to service the communities around that mountain pass railway, such as Lanslebourg.

French exchange markings for this crossing:
     Suisse Annecy, Suisse Amb M. Cenis

Lake of Geneva Crossing:
Thonon is located on the South shore of Lake Geneva.  A rail line was developed along that south shore from Geneva to Martigny (approximately), but this may have been either a lake steamer or carriage route exchange earlier.
French exchange marking: Suisse Thonon

French exchange markings with uncertain crossings:
     Suiss Dijon (probably Pontarlier),  various Marseilles markings, Suisse Amb. Marseilles 3, Amb Marseille II Suisse, Suisse Ambulant Marseille G

Prepaid Rates France to Switzerland

Prepaid Letter Rates - Belgium to France 
Effective Date Rate Unit
* differs for cantons
Jul 1, 1850  40 centimes 7.5 grams
Oct 1, 1865  30 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 (GPU)  30 centimes 15 grams
May 1, 1878 (UPU)  25 centimes 15 grams
Oct 1, 1907 (UPU)  25 ctm / 15 ctm 15 g / add'l 15 g

* Switzerland was "unified" in 1848.  The 1850 convention seems to be the first such between France and the new government.  Prior to this, postal agreements depended on the canton.

30 centimes per 10 grams : Oct 1, 1865 - Dec 31, 1875

Geneva (Bellegarde) entry to Switzerland
Marseilles A Lyon Jan 13 1866
     ML1 rail marking
Sion - Geneve - Sion Jan 14 66 T.7 (verso)
Bern Jan 14 66 (verso)
Thun Jan 15 66 Vormittag (verso)

The Thun marking is of interest as it appears to read "vormittag," which would seem to indicate "morning" mail service or arrival.  This would make sense given the Sion-Geneva markings of the previous day.

Pontarlier entry to Switzerland
Le Havre Apr 2 69
   1769 (lozenge cancel)
Paris Etranger Apr 3 (verso)
Pontarlier N Berne Apr 4 69 (verso)
Verrieres Apr 4 69 (verso)

25 ctms per 15 gms  : May 1, 1878 - Sep 30, 1881
Paris Gare du Nord Jul 18 79
     Gare du Nord train station in Paris
Ambulant Jul 19 79 (verso)
     Swiss Traveling Post Office
Geneve, Switzerland

The above is a standard UPU (Universal Postal Union) Group 1 letter rate example.  The UPU did recognize that some destinations required more expense for mail to reach them than others.  Hence destinations were placed into "groups" for rating purposes.

Border Mail

Border Letter Rates - France to Switzerland and vice versa**
Effective Date Rate Unit
Jul 1, 1850 20 centimes/rappen 7.5 grams
Oct 1, 1865 20 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 - Jun 30,1892 20 centimes 15 grams

** for mail that crosses the border and distance is 30 km or less from origin post office to destination post office

Unpaid Mail

Unpaid Letter Rates - France to Switzerland and vice versa***
Effective Date Rate Unit
Oct 1, 1865 50 centimes 10 grams
Oct 1, 1865 - border 30 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 60 centimes 15 grams
Jan 1, 1876-border 40 centimes 15 grams
May 1, 1878 50 centimes 15 grams
Apr 1, 1886- border 30 centimes 15 grams
*** prior to 1865, the unpaid rate was the same as the prepaid rate

 De Clercq, M, "Recueil des Traites de la France,"  p 638 holds the 1849 postal convention.

page 207 of Volume 20 has the 1865 treaty.

Les Tarifs Postaux Francais: Entre 1848 et 1916 by Jean-Louis Bourgouin
     This has been my "go to" site for determining French rates for some time.  Data appears to be backed up by postal acts and agreements of which I have confirmed some and I hope to collect access to others as well.

Richardson, Derek J, "Tables of French Postal Rates 1849-2011," 4th ed, France and Colonies Philatelic Society of Great Britain, 2011.
     If you are looking for a wider range of rates, they can be found here as long as they are not rates dictated by postal convention prior to the General Postal Union of 1875.  But, the internal rates are well covered.  This work is in English.  The convenience of not having to translate and the likelihood that Richardson's work is sufficiently accurate for my intents and purposes make this a good resource.

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